The industrial action rocking the Akwa Ibom State University, AKSU has remained unabated despite claims by the Governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel of giving a monthly subvention of N327 million to the management of the institution, which according to him, should be enough to take care of their demands.
Both campuses of the state-owned institution situated at Ikot Akpanden in Mkpat Enin Local Government Area and Obio Akpa in Oruk Anam Local Government Area, have remained under lock and key since Monday, April 19, 2021.
The members of staff, both academic and non-academic, had over seven weeks ago, embarked on an industrial action in demand for the payment of backlog of salaries, stoppage of payment of salaries on percentage basis, payment of leave grants and other entitlements.
Worried by the situation, students community in the institution in a press statement expressed displeasure over the development, lamenting that they would be the ones to bear the brunt of the crisis.
The students called on the state government, the school management and the unions to come to a compromise so that academic activities would resume in the school.
They also threatened to embark on a protest if the concerned authorities fail to settle the matter and call off the strike.
No rationale behind AKSU strike, I give them N327Million monthly grant- Gov. Emmanuel
The Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel has blamed the management of the state-owned institution for embarking on undue strike actions. He said his administration put every necessary modality in place to ensure that workers in the institution were comfortable.
The Governor, who spoke in a recent media programme; entitled, ‘The Governor Speaks’, usually aired on both the state-owned and private radio stations, said that lecturers in AKSU were the highest paid in the country even as he gives N327 monthly subvention to the management.
He wondered why the lecturers had refused to return to classrooms despite the huge resources spent on the institution.
The Governor noted that the bone of contention was when he decided that the institution should follow the NUC salary scale, which is applicable in other universities in Nigeria.
His words, “I give the Akwa Ibom State University N327 million every month as grant. Also, going by the figures I have, lecturers in AKSU receive the highest salaries anywhere in the country.
“For sustainability, I decided that we align with the NUC salary scale applicable everywhere in the country, that is the crux of the disagreement.”
We will not shift grounds until we receive our full salaries/allowances- ASUU
The ASUU chairman of the institution, Dr Ime Okop in an interview with our correspondent said the position of the union regarding the strike would remain unshaken as the lecturers were not prepared to shift grounds until all their salaries and other entitlements were settled by the state government.
He said he would not argue whether the governor gave the N327Million subvention to the school management or not, saying that the management is in a better position to answer that question.
According to him, “What the governor went on air to say is not what we will contest, it is left for the management to explain, but, what we know is that the university has been receiving the sum of N250million as monthly subvention as at 2019.
“So, if the state government has increased it to N329million, it is left for the management to explain, and let us know when the amount was increased”.
The chairman frowned at the situation where both the state government and the management of the university would play pranks with issues of education.
He added that they would not resume duties until their full salaries are paid.
“We are asking for our salaries to be paid in full and other allowances, we have been receiving half salaries, percentage salaries, and you cannot tell which month you were paid or not.
“Sending security men to forcefully open the gate would not solve the problem; now that they have succeeded in opening the gate, would they also force us to resume lectures”, the ASUU boss queried.
VC’s proposed resumption date unrealisable
Following the stiff stance of both the state government and the striking unions of the Institution, the Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Nse Essien waded in, to ensure that academic activities resume in both campuses.
Prof. Essien, who appeared last week Wednesday before the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly Committee on Education, assured that full academic activities would begin on Monday, May 31, 2021.
But, days after the pronouncement, investigations reveal that academic activities are yet to commence. Further findings also reveal that lecturers were still receiving half salaries.
As of Monday, May 24, when their salaries were paid, it was still based on percentage basis while other allowances remained pending.
“We are hopeful that on Monday 31 of May, 2021, normal academic activities will commence at both campuses of the Akwa Ibom State University.
‘’We are on top of the matter and we are having series of meetings with the various stakeholders to make sure that students and lecturers return to classrooms by next week”_ the VC told the State House of Assembly.
Akwa Ibom Assembly tasks VC on ending prolong crisis in AKSU
The Chairman of Education Committee, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Hon. Godwin Ekpo on his part, urged the Vice Chancellor to do everything possible to settle the lingering crisis in the university.
He noted that the House was concerned that the strike has adversely affected the completion agenda of the present government and education forms a critical point.
He said, “We urge you to do everything within your powers to bring to an end this lingering issue in the institution and ensure that normal academic activities are restored.”
Breach of Trust by Akwa Ibom Government, AKSU management
It will be recalled that as a measure to put an end to the frequent strike actions in the institution, the Akwa Ibom State Government, management and the unions in the university had on January 4, 2021 reached some resolutions to address the situation.
The resolutions included among others, immediate payment of three months backlog of 25 per cent salary arrears to staff members of AKSU for January, February and March 2020, full payment of salaries; and constitution of a Visitation Panel by the Visitor of the university, Udom Emmanuel that would address pending issues in the institution.
The visitation panel was eventually constituted and headed by the Chief of Staff to the governor, Mr Ephraim Inyang-eyen, who also had submitted their reports to the state government.
The report however is yet to be made public.
It was gathered that the state government only paid one month of full salaries and relapsed to previous arrangement of paying half salaries in the subsequent months while leave allowances and other entitlements were not paid.
The unions of the university saw that as a breach of trust by the state government and the management of the institution as they failed to implement the resolutions reached during their January meeting. This made them to embark on strike since April 17 and the definite time for its suspension is unknown.